Wow! You must have a great camera!

Is this something you’ve been told before? Or are you guilty of saying it to someone else?

I was scrolling through my news feed on Facebook today when I came across a beautiful aurora photo by a local photographer. I started reading the comments and came across one that said this: “Wow! What a camera you have that gets such beautiful aurora pictures.”

I know that the people who say this always means it as a compliment but it’s really not. It’s a bit like telling someone who’s just built a beautiful house that they must have had a great hammer.

You can take amazing photos with the cheapest, most basic camera and you can take horrible ones with a brand new D850. The camera is your tool, you create the image. The reason the woman on Facebook got a great photo is that she has spent a lot of time learning how to use her tool. She’s practiced for years, developed her artistic eye and figured out how to best use her camera to create the best image.

And let’s kill the misconception that you need a pro-level camera to capture the aurora. Here are a few examples from my journey.

This first one was shot with a Nikon D800, a great FF camera that was pretty much top of the line back when I got it and still going strong! Yes, you can get awesome photos with this camera but you don’t necessarily need a camera like this in order to get great shots.

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The next one was shot with a Nikon D7000, a DX camera i used before getting the D800. Also great but very much cheaper and not aimed at the pro market. Still great photos when you know how to use it!

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Let’s go even further back in time to one of my very first aurora shoots. Back then I had my very first DSLR, an Olympus E-pl1. This was their most basic camera in the PEN series if I remember correctly, and the cheapest. Back then I still shot in jpeg and I was learning by trial and error which settings to use. As you can see, this exposure was way too long and I got startrails but I still love it! 🙂

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And finally a photo I took this winter but not with a DSLR at all. This one was shot hand held with my phone, a Samsung Galaxy s8. Because apparently phones can do this now. 🙂

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My point is this: You can get great photos with any camera so don’t feel the pressure to get something “better” and more expensive if you don’t need it. Get to know the camera you have and use it, a lot!

And if you see a great photograph and you want to compliment the photographer, then do just that. Don’t compliment their camera because the image you’re looking at was created by the person behind it.

Aurora season coming to an end

67sThe dark skies of the arctic winter are gone, we are now moving fast into a long period of 24/7 daylight. This means that although the aurora still dances above, we can’t see it.

There will only be one single star visible in the arctic night sky all spring and summer, our sun. For us here in Kiruna the sun will stay above the horizon from late May until mid July. For a month or so before and after the midnight sun period, the sun does set but it stays too close to the horizon for us to get any darkness at night.

The midnight sun does make for some beautiful scenery though. The sun rolls over the horizon through the night before rising higher in the morning. This gives us that beautiful soft light for hours. Here it is shining over the mountain range as seen from the hill Luossavaara here in Kiruna.

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At the end of August we will finally be able to see a starry sky again! And those first nights of proper darkness are usually spectacular.

Autumn is generally a great time for aurora hunting. September/October come with pitch black night skies full of stars and dancing lights. This is the perfect time to capture the aurora over open water, before everything freezes over.

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That’s it for this Sunday morning!

I will try to update this blog every now and then with new photos and some info on how I captured them. I’ll also share some processing tips and maybe my favorite locations for aurora hunting up here around Kiruna.

Have an amazing day!